Craig Federighi is no longer in charge of Siri. Responsibility for Apple’s troubled voice assistant has been given to John Giannandrea, who is now in charge of all Apple’s artificial intelligence efforts.
Siri is seen as poor competition for Amazon Alexa, Microsoft Cortana, and Google Assistant. Its weakness is hurting sales of Apple products, including the HomePod.
Giannandrea was recently lured away from Google‘s artificial intelligence division. Apple’s website was updated today to indicate that he “oversees the strategy for Artificial Intelligence and machine learning across the company and development of Core ML and Siri technologies.”
Federighi remains Apple’s SVP of Software Engineering, responsible for overseeing iOS and macOS. The only change is that Siri isn’t on the list any more.
Siri struggles with differential privacy
One of the biggest challenges facing Apple’s new Chief of Machine Learning and AI Strategy is the company’s strong stance on privacy. Unlike Amazon and Google, Apple refuses to gather data about its users wholesale. It won’t save recordings of everything anyone says to their smartspeaker and use that to improve Siri. That’s an efficient way to work, but it provides little privacy protection for users.
Instead, Apple employs differential privacy (.pdf). The company says this lets it “gain insight into what many Apple users are doing, while helping to preserve the privacy of individual users. Differential privacy transforms the information shared with Apple before it ever leaves the user’s device such that Apple can never reproduce the true data.”
So Giannandrea faces a difficult task. But he’ll have lots of new help. Apple recently posted more than a hundred job openings for the Siri team this spring.